Stephana Johnston, an 82-year-old former health educator, of Norfolk County, told her story of suffering from health problems she believes were caused by living near industrial wind turbines.
Speaking by teleconference at the Environmental Review Tribunal appeal hearing, Friday morning (Jan. 10) in Kincardine, Johnston said that the cyclical noise from wind turbines causes serious harm to human health, and that has been upheld in two court cases.
Danielle Meuleman, counsel for the director of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), objected, saying that the tribunal had directed all participants and presenters on what evidence was permissible at the hearing.
Chairperson Maureen Carter-Whitney reminded Johnston that post-turbine witnesses and presenters were allowed to speak only of their own personal circumstances, experiences, and symptoms, not other people’s unless they live in the same house.
She said they may also comment on publications they have read that caused concern, but those articles are not allowed into evidence. Also, post-turbine witnesses and presenters are not allowed to give opinions on articles and publications.
Asha James, counsel for the appellants, Ken and Sharon Kroeplin of Kincardine, said that Johnston is not giving an opinion on the two court cases, but only referring to them.
Carter-Whitney allowed Johnston to proceed, provided she gave no opinion on the court cases.
“I’m just stating facts, not my opinion,” said Johnston, disputing claims that there is no cyclical sound from wind turbines, and noting that the World Health Organization has stated that sleep disturbance causes harm to human health.
“If the tribunal does not reverse the approval by the MOE director, and permits these turbines to be built, it will seem as if the process is set up that people like me can’t win,” said Johnston, “and that’s a violation of my rights – it’s unconscionable.”
She and her community have been assaulted and battered by the nearby Clear Creek, Cultus-Frogmore wind projects, she said.
“I have been a diabetic for 20 years and it was well-controlled,” she said. “I never had so much trouble controlling my diabetes as since the turbines started (in December, 2008).”
Referring to her medical records, Johnston pointed out that some of the information is inaccurate, and she has not had a proper medical diagnosis under her doctor’s definitions, as she believes there is bias present.
A report by Dr. Kieran Moore, associate medical officer of health for Kawartha Lakes, uses the term “annoyance,” said Johnston.
“I’m not annoyed, I’m simply exhausted,” she said. ” I do not get the sleep I need.”
She said Moore has left out valuable information, such as research on infrasound and low-frequency noise.
Meuleman again objected, saying that Johnston is offering her opinion on Moore’s study which is outside the direction given by the tribunal.
“Ms. Johnston, the tribunal agrees with Ms. Meuleman,” said Carter-Whitney. “You are straying into critiquing Dr. Moore’s research.”
Johnston requested the tribunal ask Moore to clarify his study.
“My health is in jeopardy,” said Johnston. “What are you prepared to sacrifice? Who are you prepared to sacrifice? Are we in my community the sacrificial lamb for the wind industry?
“Do I have to lose a limb to prove the serious harm (done by wind turbines)?”
Johnston said she has been exposed to the cyclical noise of wind turbines for the past five years. She was part of a cross-over study in which subjects slept in an apartment 40 kilometres away from the turbines and were able to sleep soundly, “just as we did before the turbines came.”
To indicate flaws in her medical records, Johnston said the records show that her complaint came after a new turbine was built.
“Well, it was 18 turbines and before that, there were 66 built along the shore,” she said. “They affect my life every day.”
Her medical records also indicate she was depressed, which she was not, she said, and they indicate she had a hysterectomy in 1960, but she had children after that, so the information is not correct.
“I was told the solution was easy – to live away from my house,” said Johnston. “I asked the best real estate agent in Norfolk County to put my house on the market on Dec. 15, 2009. Not a soul would take a look at it.
“All the money I had for shelter went into building that retirement house. I would need that money out of it in order to move.”
Under cross-examination by Alexandria Pike, counsel for the approval holder, Samsung Pattern Armow Wind Ontario GP, Johnston said the issues are not as simplistic as counsel for the approval holder and the MOE, would like to make them.
“You can’t boil this down to two numbers – 40 dBA (decibels) and 550 metres (setback),” she said. “That’s too simplistic. You can’t reduce what’s happening here.”
Pike asked if Johnston has had hypertension since 1998?
“No, my blood pressure was higher than optimal so I had a 48-hour blood pressure monitor put on,” Johnston said. “Over that period, the readings showed that I was well below optimal and above optimal.”
Pike asked if Johnston had suffered from hypothyroidism since 1980.
“Yes, I was diagnosed around 1984,” said Johnson.
“Do you take medication for that?” asked Pike.
“Yes,” said Johnston.
“You have no medical records for prior to the wind turbines becoming operational?” asked Pike.
“I think so,” said Johnston. “I thought I had complete records from 1998. It’s frustrating for counsel because my medical records are not complete or accurate.”
“Your mental health is good?” asked Pike.
“Yes,” said Johnston, “and that was confirmed through testing.”
“Do you have any side effects from your medication?” asked Pike.
“None of the the doctors said my medication (would cause) this whirling sensation in my head,” said Johnston.
Meuleman asked Johnston if she was diagnosed with myofacial pain syndrome prior to the wind farm being operation?
“No, I don’t recall that in the report,” said Johnston.
Meuleman read from Johnston’s testimony at the Ostrander Point tribunal in which she stated she had myofacial pain syndrome which was possibly related to her diabetic condition.
“I may have said it, but I’m not sure it’s a fact,” said Johnston.
“You feel impacted even when the turbines are not turning?” asked Meuleman.
“When I built my home, I did not want transient noise from outside getting into the house,” said Johnston. “It’s well-insulated. I don’t hear the noise of the turbines, I feel the vibration of the sound waves inside the house.”
“Do you feel low-frequency noise?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes, I feel that,” said Johnston.
“You are vocal and active speaking out against wind projects, aren’t you?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes,” said Johnston.
“Do you feel that speaking out against the wind turbines is an extension of your role as a health education?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes,” said Johnston.
The appeal hearing wrapped up Friday afternoon, and will reconvene in Toronto for final testimony Monday, Jan. 13, and Tuesday, Jan. 14.
The appeal was launched Oct. 23 by the Kroeplins, against the proposed Armow Wind Class 4 wind facility, a 92-turbine, 180-megawatt industrial wind development in Kincardine. It was approved by the director of the MOE through the REA process, Oct. 9.
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